Bobby Shuttleworth vs. Portland Timbers

By The Numbers: Shuttleworth’s All-Star credentials a clear-cut case

*All statistics referenced were compiled using 2013 data provided by Opta

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It’s true that statistics rarely tell the whole story.

But sometimes they can give you a pretty detailed synopsis.

Right now the statistics say Bobby Shuttleworth – bar none – has been the best goalkeeper in Major League Soccer through the first 40 percent of the season. The numbers cannot be interpreted any other way.

Shuttleworth leads the league in the three most prominent statistical categories: Goals Against Average (0.75), Shutouts (7) and Save Percentage (.820). Basically, he’s keeping the ball out of the net better than any other goalkeeper in MLS. If I’m not mistaken, that’s the primary purpose of the position.

The argument has been made that statistics can be misleading for a goalkeeper; that the players in front of Shuttleworth have been just as responsible for his sterling goals against average and shutout total as the goalkeeper himself. (Did I mention the Revs lead the league in both those categories?) I’ll concede that this argument holds a degree of weight and it’s why Jose Goncalves and Andrew Farrell also deserve All-Star consideration.

But there are some statistics which are down to Shuttleworth and Shuttleworth alone. And those numbers continue to back up the fact that the 26-year-old goalkeeper has been one of the league’s best.

For instance, save percentage. No goalkeeper in the league is saving a higher percentage of the shots hit in his direction than Shuttleworth. As a point of comparison, Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen – last year’s MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and a player garnering All-Star consideration once again – has saved 66 percent of the shots aimed in his direction. Shuttleworth has saved 82 percent. That’s significantly better.

Shuttleworth is also tops in another critical – albeit less glorified – individual category called safe parry percentage, which calculates the percentage of parries which a goalkeeper directs to safety (either out of bounds or to a teammate). In essence, it judges whether a goalkeeper gives up bad rebounds. Shuttleworth does not. Of his 26 parries, he’s directed 77 percent of them to safety. No one’s better.

For another point of comparison, let’s look at three goalkeepers receiving All-Star consideration: Raul Fernandez (53 percent), Donovan Ricketts (53 percent) and Michael Gspurning (47 percent). That trio ranks as three of the four worst in safe parry percentage. Put simply, they give up bad rebounds at a higher rate than anyone else.

There have been a number of arguments made against Shuttleworth (why’s everyone hating on Bobby?) which, in my opinion, can be shot down pretty simply.

As a first-year starter, Shuttleworth doesn’t have a big enough body of work
-       We’re voting on the 2013 MLS All-Star game, right? I’d argue that 2013 performances are all we should be considering. Perhaps others are considering too large a body of work.

Shuttleworth hasn’t won Save of the Week, therefore he doesn’t make spectacular saves
-       Having watched every minute of every Revs game, I can confirm Shuttleworth has indeed made some spectacular saves. He’s also limited the number of spectacular saves he’s had to make because his positioning is spot on. Do you really want your goalkeeper to have to make spectacular saves? I’d rather my ‘keeper make it look easy.

Shuttleworth’s numbers are buoyed by the defense in front of him
-       We’ve covered this one. In large part, it’s true. Which is why Jose Goncalves and Andrew Farrell deserve your consideration, as well.

I could continue with even more statistics – Shuttleworth has made three saves in four one-v-one situations and has come off his line to smother four other attempts, good for second in the league – but at a certain point, you get the picture.

I’m not saying Shuttleworth is the clear-cut choice to start in the 2013 MLS All-Star game simply because of statistics. I’m well aware that you can’t base everything on the numbers, or else this would be a pretty simple process – just pick the guys with the best stats. But these figures do prove that Shuttleworth needs to be part of the discussion in 2013, and you can bet he’s going to be part of the discussion for years to come.